ARTICLES ON THE GREAT HOUSE
©July 31, 1999 (Revised July 31, 1999)
GREAT HOUSE MAIN PAGE
Westmoreland County, Virginia 1653-1983
A Survey of Period Architecture
THE GREAT HOUSEis well located on a broad bluff which looks out the Yeocomico River and across the Potomac to the Southern Maryland shore. The original house was constructed by Stephen Bailey I shortly after his acquisition of the land in 1667. The original patentee of the property was Richard Nelms in 1662. Family tradition has maintained that the original house was of brick, but this belief is undocumented.
The property was sold out of the family in 1778; for the next forty-nine years it was owned by five individuals, including John James Maund who married Harriet Lucy daughter of Robert ("Councillor") Carter III, heir of Nomini Hall. It is said that the house was burned by the British in 1814 during the latter days of the War of 1812.
The property was reacquired by the Bailey family in 1827 when purchased by Major Robert Bailey. He is supposed to have built the present house or a portion thereof, over the original brick and sandstone cellar. The architectural style of the present house confounds this traditional dating, however, as it suggests that the present house dates rather from the middle to late eighteenth century. One conclusion is that Major Robert Bailey may consciously have followed an earlier style in rebuilding a Colonial Virginia house during the Classical Revival era. Another, and more likely possibility, is that the present house was built during the eighteenth century to replace an earlier structure, was damaged during the war of 1812, and was renovated by thee Bailey family after its reacquisition of the house in 1827. Both the land and the water-side of the second floor now carry three dormers; only two faced the land originally. The ground floor is divided into four rooms of unequal size. To the north of the center hall, on the water-side, is a large drawing room with fireplace. Entered directly through this room is a narrow chamber fronting on the land-side of the house. It is said to have accommodated a preacher on visits to Kinsale, and, as was traditional with most quest rooms, was unheated.
To the south of the center hall on the water-side is the former dining room. Through it a downstairs bedroom, or "Mother's Room," is entered and occupies the land-side of the building. These two rooms are served by corner fireplaces, a feature which usually cannot be found in a nineteenth-century house. The upstairs contains a stair hall lit by a dormer in which the Baileys have traditionally kept a light at night to mark the channel of the Yeocomico River in Kinsale. To either side of the upstairs center hall is a bedroom, each with a fireplace.
In the yard of the plantation complex are located an original kitchen with large cooking fireplace and a sokehouse with original framing and siding. Nearby on a bluff overlooking the harbor at Kinsale is the Bailey family cemetery. It contains the grave of Midshipman James Butler Sigourney of Boston, commander of United States ship Asp, who was killed defending Kinsale on July 14, 1813.
THE GREAT HOUSEreceived sensitive additions to either end during the second quarter of the twentieth century. Now a new dining room, kitchen, and breezeway following the style of the original house connect the old kitchen with the main house. The property remains in the hands of the Bailey family and is inhabited by the eleventh generation of the family in direct descent form Stephen Bailey I.
Old Virginia Houses - The Northern Peninsulas
THE GREAT HOUSE
In 1667 Stephan Bailey came to Westmoreland County and established a plantation he called Kinsale. He was a descendant of an ancient French family, De Bailleul. During the Norman invasion the family had moved to Scotland, where John Baliol (as the family name was then spelled) later became king.
In 1705 the Virginia House of Burgesses laid out a town near Kinsale Plantation. The town was called Kinsale and the estate thereafter called "THE GREAT HOUSE," since it was the largest and most impressive house in the vicinity.
From Stephan Bailey the estate was entailed through the Bailey family, until the entail law was repealed by Virginia, following the Revolution. The estate then passed into the hands of Dr. Walter Jones, Catesby Jones and John James Maund. In 1795 Maund sold it to William Forbes.
During the War of 1812 a battle was fought in Kinsale harbor, an account of which is given by James Fenimore Cooper in his Naval History of the United States. A detachment of the British navy attacked a three-gun sloop, the Asp, commanded by a young man from Massachusetts, Midshipman James B. Signourney. The odds were five-to-one against the Americans. Signourney was wounded, and was brought to the THE GREAT HOUSE where he died and was buried. The British burned the house, leaving only the foundation, the smoke house and separate kitchen.
In 1827 Major Robert Bailey purchased the plantation from the Forbes family and erected the present house on the original foundation. This house is of a story-and-a-half colonial design with simple interior on the central hallway plan.
Major Robert Bailey married Ann Ball, a cousin of George Washington, and through this marriage many Ball possessions came into the family.
The shadow of war again touched THE GREAT HOUSE in March, 1865. At that time Federal forces, consisting of seventeen vessels and a gunboat, lay at anchor in front of the house. Only the fact that a Massachusetts hero, Midshipman Signourney, was buried in THE GREAT HOUSE CEMETERY and had been tended by Virginians saved the house.
After the war most Virginia plantations were penniless, and THE GREAT HOUSE was no exception. It was not rescued from disrepair until the 1930"s when Major Robert Bailey's great grandson began its restoration.
THE GREAT HOUSE is now owned by Mr. And Mrs. Francis Maddox Bailey and Mrs. Happuch Delano Bailey.
The Authentic Guide Book of Historic Northern Neck of Virginia
KINSALE & THE GREAT HOUSE
KINSALEis one of the oldest towns on the Virginia shore of the Potomac River. In 1680 the House of Burgesses decreed that each maritime county should purchase fifty acres of land to be laid out with streets. The three town-sites first selected on the Virginia shore of the Potomac were: "in Northumberland County, Chicacony," now Coan Wharf; "in Westmoreland, at Nomenie, on land of Mr. Hardricke," near Booths; and "in Stafford County, at Please Point, at the mouth of Acquia on the north side." These towns never developed. Kinsale by act of the Burgesses, was founded in 1705, on the land of Richard Tidwell. It is nearly a hundred years older than Richmond, and nearly a hundred years older than the Capital of the Nation. At its ancient wharves ships have tied up for more than two centuries. In Colonial days it traded direct with Glasgow and the West Indies. Now Baltimore steamers touch at its wharf and sailing vessels add picturesque to its water-front.
It is located on a low bluff, at the head of a branch of Yeocomico River, a broad and deep estuary of the Potomac, at the eastern extremity of Westmoreland County. Across the Yeocomico is Northumberland County, which stretches away to Chesapeake Bay.
Close to the village stands the quaint old dwelling, home of the Bailey family, known as the "GREAT HOUSE." Its quiet dignity accords well with its past, though it is not the large house its name suggests. From its windows we can see the deep cove on which young Midshipman Sigourney, a native of Boston, Massachusetts, fought his gallant fight and won his place in history. During the War of 1812 a detachment of the British Navy entered the river and attacked a three gun sloop, the "Asp," commanded by Midshipman James B. Sigourney. The odds were five to one against the Americans, but a "murderous conflict ensued," in which Sigourney was killed. The Americans brought their dead commander ashore and buried him in the private burying lot of the Great House, where the Bailey family, to this day, reverently have cared for his grave. The inscription on the tomb reads: "Sacred to the Memory of Midshipman James B. Sigournery, of the United States Navy, a native of Boston, Mass., aged 23 years, who fell gallantly defending his Country's flag on board of the United States Schooner Asp, under his command, in an action with five British barges of very superior force, on the 14th day of July, 1813."
James Fenimore Cooper, in his "Naval History of United States," gives and account of this battle in which Sigourney was killed. A window of the Great House serves as a lighthouse for mariners. In this window faithful hands have placed a light every evening for over a century and a half. During the War Between the States, in March, 1865 a skirmish took place here, when seventeen steamers and on gunboat lay at anchor just in front of the Great House. All night cannon fired over the Great House, shelling Shingle Hill woods just beyond.
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